Friday, January 16, 2009

Redonkulously cold.

I was letting the dogs out today, and I opened the back door and thought, huh, doesn't feel too bad out there. Then I went to check the weather, and saw this:

Clearly, you've been living in the North Country too long when three below doesn't phase you! However, it was not the kind of day where you want to be futzing around in the kitchen longer than you have to. It's the kind of day where you put on three layers of clothing, swaddle yourself in a heavy blanket, sidle up to a space heater, and try just to survive it, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the pipes. You also need to make sure that your own system doesn't freeze, and for that, you're gonna need a big crock pot of soup to sustain you throughout the day.

When I was reading the Cooks Illustrated bulletin boards lately, there was a thread about easy things to make with a pound of hamburger. Several people were extolling the virtues of a recipe from Paula Deen called taco soup. That sounded like just the ticket. It's simple, comprised mostly of cans of stuff already in your pantry, it's zesty and tasty, and it's very hearty--much more like a Mexican-style chili than a soup. Plus, you can dump it into a crockpot and let it simmer all day, and it just tastes better the longer you let it go. I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly because as written, it would make enough for a huge crowd. I essentially cut it in half, and it still filled my large crock pot, enough for me for a few days and plenty left over to share with my poor next-door neighbor who has pneumonia in one lung right now, but still checks on my chickens for me every day. What a gem! Anyway, this recipe is a keeper--very versatile, perfect for these brutal winter days, and a great choice for your Superbowl party, too. Give it a try when you need a warm-up, especially on a day that ends like this:

Mexican Chili (aka Taco Soup)
(adapted from Paula Deen via
Food Network)

1 pound ground beef (ground turkey would be good, too)
1 cup diced onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans (I used black beans instead)
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can kidney beans (I used dark red ones)
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles (Ro-Tel)
1 (4 1/2-ounce) small can diced green chiles
1 (4.6-ounce) small can black olives, drained and sliced
1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix (start with half then taste from there)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2-3 cups tomato juice (I used spicy hot, but regular will do)
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped, optional

corn or tortilla chips, for serving
sour cream, for garnish
grated cheese, for garnish
chopped green onions, for garnish
pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Brown the ground beef, onions and garlic in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, taco seasoning, ranch dressing mix, oregano, cumin and brown sugar. Stir everything together, then thin it out with tomato juice or water to a desired consistency. Cook on low in the crock pot for 6-8 hours (or more) or simmer over low heat for about one hour in a pot on the stove. Right before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro, if using.

To serve, place a few corn chips in each bowl and ladle soup over them (alternately, top with crushed tortilla chips). Top with sour cream (ranch dressing is good, too), cheese, green onions and/or jalapenos, as desired.

Aerogarden Update:
It's the end of week two, and all pods appear to be thriving (to review, I have lettuces in the middle and herbs on either end). I just had to add more water and two more nutrient tablets, so they should really go like gangbusters now! I have my fingers crossed for my first salad by the end of the month. :-)


Natalie said...

I think I will make this Paula recipe tomorrow. Looks so good. I just lover her. My husband is from Albany, GA just like Paula. Gotta love the South.

Anonymous said...

I mean to say I love her, not lover - I can't even type right today!

JoyBugaloo said...

I knew what you meant...tee hee. And it is very good, despite the fact that it just involves throwing a bunch of canned crap in a big pot! And of course, you can certainly fiddle with it until it tastes right to you and has the desired level of heat and so on. I think you'll like it, and it will surely warm your tummies!

By the bye, my mother and all of her family was from GA (Macon)! In fact, Miss Paula reminds me a little of my mom. And I ADORE Savannah, too! :-)